IVF with donated eggs is the most successful fertility treatment available and has brought the joy of parenthood to many women and couples who would otherwise be facing infertility. It is one of the most altruistic acts that a woman can do to make a huge difference to the life of another woman. How exactly does the egg donation process work? Who are these generous benefactors, what checks and tests are necessary to become an egg donor and how do you find a centre for egg donation near you?
In this IVI article we take you through a step by step guide to the process: how it works for the donor, how it works for the recipient, how you might contribute and how those in need of your help can benefit.
Why become an egg donor?
Becoming an egg donor is a voluntary, altruistic act which young women in good health can offer in order to benefit those who are unable to become pregnant with their own eggs. The voluntary nature of ovodonation is enshrined in law in most European countries, including the UK, although donors are offered compensation for their reasonable expenses and discomfort in varying amounts, generally around €900 or £750.
Donors, who may be known or anonymous depending on the location, have the satisfaction of knowing that their generosity is life changing for women who can’t use their own eggs for a variety of reasons. These can include:
- Women who have ovarian failure following menopause or premature menopause;
- Women who cannot use their own oocytes due to poor quality or the risk of passing on an inheritable disease and those whose ovaries are inaccessible following surgery;
- Women who have experienced repeated miscarriages or repeated failure of IVF cycles.
Donors also have the benefit of information, for example through testing for transmissible diseases and genetic testing. This can be extremely valuable in understanding their own potential to become parents, giving them practical help in their own plans for a family.
Who can donate eggs?
Criteria for being accepted as an egg donor vary by country, but since Spain is a major European centre for egg donation, we will use the criteria of our IVI clinics in Spain as an example. We have rigorous tests and checks which result in only around one third of potential donors being accepted. The screening criteria include:
- Psychological and medical assessment, including a gynaecological examination to check for any irregularities and also to assess the response of the ovaries to medication and the potential number of eggs that will result from ovarian stimulation. Blood group and Rh factor are checked and tests are run to rule out any diseases such as HIV, hepatitis or syphilis.
- Genetic screening reveals information about the chromosomes, including karyotype analysis, which gives us information about the chromosomes and CGT, reducing the risk of transmitting over 600 diseases.
As a result of our donation programme, the screening checks and the recording of a great variety of physical characteristics, we have one of the world’s largest egg banks. This allows us to allocate the right eggs to the right recipient quickly, even when we are dealing with rare blood types.
How does the egg donation process work?
For the egg donor, after completing all of the medical, psychological and genetic tests, the procedure is identical to the IVF process up to the point of egg retrieval. For her, that is the end of the process. In the meantime, the patient has been through her preparatory processes:
- During the first and second visits to the clinic, a full diagnosis and personalised treatment plan are carried out. In the case of a heterosexual couple, if the male partner’s sperm is to be used, he will supply a semen sample for storage and later use in fertilisation.
- Treatment of the woman, in the form of the womb lining being prepared to receive the embryo, begins. This can take between 20 and 40 days.
- The egg donation process is completed five days before the planned transfer and fertilisation of the eggs, using the partner’s or donor sperm, takes place. The resulting embryos are cultured in the laboratory. When embryonic development has reached the required stage, the best embryo is selected and transferred to the patient’s uterus. The remaining good quality embryos are frozen for a future use.
- The Beta hGC pregnancy test is carried out 11 days after embryo transfer. All being well, the pregnancy is monitored as it progresses.
How does the fertility clinic match donor to recipient?
There have been some very significant advances in the technology that allows perfect matching of donor to recipient. These latest techniques go way beyond the basic matching of ethnicity, hair colour and build. The technique we use in IVI goes by the name of Perfect Match 360°. This programme enables us to make sure of not only compatibility between donor and patient, but also to offer the maximum possible resemblance, through the use of the latest facial resemblance technology.
We take into account the most visible physical characteristics such as ethnicity, eye colour, hair colour, height and physique. We also match other less visible factors such as Rh compatibility and blood type.
We carry out a Compatibility Genetic Test on all of our donors, to identify the presence of genes likely to cause up to 600 genetic diseases. The same testing is carried out on all semen donors and in the case of heterosexual couples, the male partner undergoes the same tests to ensure genetic compatibility with the egg donor.
IVI Biometric Scan
Our biometric scan uses cutting-edge technology based on an algorithm-backed 3D facial resemblance system, which converts a facial image into a mathematical formula represented by 12.000 facial points and the distances between them. In this way, in addition to the selection benefits of phenotypic and genetic criteria, we can offer maximum facial resemblance.
How do I find a centre for egg donation near me?
Whether you are a potential egg donor or potential patient, and wherever you are in Europe, you can find an IVI clinic to suit your criteria. If you need to travel for treatment, we have programmes specially designed for you, which take all the stress out of making arrangements. You can look up the location of IVI clinics on our website. When you feel ready, do get in touch.